Creative: It Just Doesn’t Matter

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Just pick one.

Someone reached out asking for help. A victim of the online photography world where gear reviewers preach the gospel of new. If I can only get “X” then I’ll be able to do “Y.” But often, what “Y” actually is, remains unknown. The cart before the horse. What is good? What is a story? What time and resources are required? These questions get pushed back and back and back while what was new is no longer so. The race begins again.

I love ink. Maybe if I had a new set of fancy ink I’d finally be able to make something great. The only problem with this theory is that getting new inks doesn’t solve the issue of my lack of drawing ability. So give me ink, give me pastels, give me the best pens the world can supply and I still don’t know how to draw. Whether it be running, cycling, photography, or any other pursuit, at some point you are left with the result of your effort and those results will work or they won’t. Does it matter what I run in? Does it matter what material my bike frame is made from? No.

I don’t know a single good photographer who changes their gear on a yearly basis. Good photographers work with gear that no longer requires much thought because they know how difficult it is to make great work and anything that gets in the way isn’t helpful. People who talk gear are amateurs. Talking about gear is easy. Far easier than making something original. Heck, making something original might take years and come with layer upon layer of failure, which looks really bad on an online feed.

Bruce Lee said it best. “It is like a finger pointing to the moon. Concentrate on the finger and you will miss all that heavenly glory.”

If you are watching films with long slow pans of cameras and film and menus then just stop doing that. If you are watching films with thumbnails of camera bodies then stop doing that. Gear-centric talk and gear-centric channels aren’t even close to the top of the list when it comes to harmful content online, especially these days when online platforms are responsible for things like genocide, but if watching these channels is holding you back, either mentally or physically, then technically you could call these channels harmful. (Not to mention the e-waste created by these relentless releases and marketing strategies.)

Whatever camera you have right now is the only one you need especially if you are still learning photography. Find something that feels right and then go take a decade and practice. Stop sharing every moment, stop posting and stop watching. (This channel included.) Go work.

Comments 8

  1. I’m sorry, Daniel, but you have contradicted yourself, and Bill Murray’s premise. NONE of it matters. It’s all fingers pointing at the moon. Stories don’t matter, research doesn’t matter, technique doesn’t matter, it just doesn’t matter. You have isolated what you think matters, but that doesn’t matter either. It’s all entertainment, pick your flavor. There is no inherent meaning to anything, we give everything all the meaning it has, it’s a contrivance, nothing more. I have a seat assignment, you have a seat assignment, we are action figures playing out the string. Photography, like anything else is just a way to while away the time. Do it in whatever way works for you. Ride, run, do yoga, make youtubes, do workshops, whatever, we all do our things, and none of it matters. It just doesn’t matter.

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      That’s just your life philosophy, but it’s not mine. I do think certain things matter. What those are might be different from you. And no, it won’t change the ultimate ending but it sure makes things fun in the meantime.

  2. IMHO it’s not that nothing matters. On the contrary, everything matters to a greater or lesser degree because everything is connected. The real problem to avoid is taking anything too seriously, especially yourself. I don’t take anything about me seriously and my wife takes everything about me even less seriously. But that’s another story…

    As for chasing the tech, I agree entirely: every minute you spend looking for the latest and greatest in an effort of making yourself a better photographer is a minute lost from refining your eye, your skill and learning everything you can about the equipment you have. You know, that which really does make you a better photographer. The time you spend looking at the real world, with or without a camera in hand, is far more valuable than the time spent reading equipment reviews.

    I bought my first camera, a Canon FTb, in 1972 and have owned only 7 other cameras since then. I’d like to think I’m a better photographer now than if I’d spent time chasing the latest and greatest tech but I don’t take my work seriously enough to spend much time wondering about it.

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  3. I really enjoy the topics that you touch. It’s obvious that you are really taking your time to think about life and meaning of different things. I guess that you don’t care that much how others react on your thoughts and the main objective is to make others think and figure out what’s important in life for them. I take a lot from that and I’m grateful for that. Keep up your creative evangelisation mission. It’s really important in the dark online ages. I’m sure that in many years this is how they will be referring to XXI century..

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      I don’t care. But not from a “I’m better than you,” way. Just in a “I’ve been working for thirty years and have been faced with people not caring about my work,” forever….. I think a lot, but not to say I’m any kind of heady person. I have no idea what I am.

  4. In response to Chuck’s comment, (above): I don’t see the contradiction, or what the philosopher Bill Murray has to do with it. Yes, DM has isolated what he thinks matters, and has made a video about it. His video; his prerogative to argue what matters. Yes, there is no inherent meaning to anything. We, as humans – thinking, feeling human beings – can’t help but attach meaning to things. Photojournalism in a war zone is arguably not entertainment, or just a way to while away the time. There are safer ways to while away the time. Cancer has a different meaning than a broken finger nail. Arguably, one matters far more than the other, as long as we are living, breathing, thinking, feeling, dying human beings. Ultimately, it won’t matter, but as long as human suffering is alive, it matters. And it matters far more than my autofocus settings, full frame or cropped, Fujifilm or Leica.
    Congratulations, Dan, on encapsulating some of your key arguments in a compelling, meaningful – and also slightly entertaining – video.

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      We are all gonna flame out in epic fashion. So to Chuck’s point, the ending remains the same. What we do in the middle times is up to us, mostly, and where and why we find meaning will differ. I think with photography, many folks never get past the decision mode. The application mode remains just outside of a self-imposed exile.

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